I receive a text from her at 5:51pm. I haven’t heard from her in months. She asks me if I would like to meet for dinner at 7pm. I check in with myself. I know I will be an exhausted shell of myself after six clients but I decide to accept with the caveat that I can’t meet until after 8pm. She agrees.

She texts me at 7:55pm to tell me that the restaurant is closing at 8pm. I tell her that since it’s right near my apartment we could eat the food at my place. She arrives at my apartment at about 8:15pm with food in hand. We sit on the couch and eat at my coffee table. She catches me up on the harrowing events of her life over the past few months. I feel calm centered empathy. I don’t have words for her. I tell her I don’t have words for her but that I’m listening. She says she understands I must be very tired. I am. Still, it’s nice to have her there. I share very little about myself. Not because I wish to be withholding but because…I just don’t feel like it. I use generic platitudes like “dark night of the soul”, “painful but important”–terms that aren’t untrue but that allow me to share without too much effort.

After we eat she lies sideways on the couch and begins to rub my faux-fur blanket. She smiles and asks, “What is this wonderfully luxurious thing?” I smile. I lie my head on her lap and say that I’m tired. She asks me to tell her when she has overstayed her welcome. I tell her that I have to go to bed soon but ask if I may keep my head on her lap for a bit. She begins to give me a gentle scalp massage and asks if it is okay. I nod and close my eyes.

We have a sleepy conversation about sex. Or, more specifically, about why it is that we always circled around it but never…well, did it. We smile and chuckle at the reasons we come up with. She’s funnier than I am but together we’re funnier than she is. She pointed that out to me in the past but it really strikes me how true it is now. The conversation is relaxing because I can feel that neither of us are especially invested in hearing any specific reason–we’re both just…curious.

I lift my head and see a sparkle in her eye. We kiss. I enjoy her soft lips and the calm familiarity of our kisses. I don’t worry about what the kiss means or about “performance”. The kiss feels like a natural extension of the food and our enjoyment of the blanket’s texture: a quiet, sensual and uncomplicated moment.

We finish the kiss and smile at one another. She makes a quiet “mmm” sound. We’re done and I can sense that we share a quiet understanding: we have no expectations; we meet every handful of months; we share a little bit; we touch and kiss; we smile at one another after our kiss; and then we say goodbye.

I walk her to her car and she holds my hand. We kiss goodbye and she says with a smile, “Well, I’ll see you in a few months probably”. I nod and smile. I walk back to my apartment. No fantasies. No longings. Centered. No insomnia for me tonight.

I left the building and spent most of the long lunch break in my office. I decided to come back a little early in order to sit on the patio before heading in. I sat next to a woman from the group and introduced myself–more to be polite than to start any sort of conversation. She was kind of a smart-ass, pronouncing her own name in a Spanish accent even though it wasn’t a Spanish name. I could tell it wasn’t mean, that it was a kind of weird attempt to connect and I didn’t let it bother me.

She asked me a few questions and I willingly entered into the conversation. I noticed that this person had an abundance of life in her eyes–they were so very expressive. The more I paid attention the more I saw all of the activity and movement inside of her: so much, soulfulness, anger, hurt, sadness. A bit too sensitive for this world. I found myself drawn to her. I wasn’t a lustful draw, it was….I don’t know….maybe a bit narcissistic. Not in any horrible way, just in that very human way where we respond strongly to seeing our own reflection in something when we weren’t expecting to. I could see how strongly she felt things and how much psychic energy was spent on constraint, even while talking about pretty innocuous topics. And yet I could sense that for both of us there were no innocuous topics because we are wired to look for danger even while longing for closeness. I imagined that in some other universe we were sibling wolves in the same pack. We could shed all of the constraints of human civilization: the anger and love and wildness would be freely expressed as we bared our teeth, nuzzled, played, growled, stalked prey and hunted. All that life force expressed in a short, dangerous–but very present-oriented–life.

Needless to say, I didn’t share that fantasy with her. Instead we talked about clothing and fabric and how someone my size might go about creating his own wardrobe. The content was nice but I often find what is said via words is a bit less interesting than what is left unspoken and what is said with the body. She would occasionally drop a comment that in certain contexts would be perceived as provocative. I could see that my responses to these “throw ins” were important to her. My honest responses (somehow I was able to be honest if for no other reason than that I felt like a tourist with a one-time invitation to another country) seemed to allow her to relax her shoulders a bit. As an example, we were talking about making your own clothes and I told her that my grandmother made her own muumuus (long loose fitting dresses that I believe originated in Hawaii). She quickly interrupted to say:, “you’d look amazing in a muumuu”. To which I responded, “Yes, I think so too.” She guessed my favorite colors (though I wasn’t wearing them) and I found it sort of cozy to talk about this sort of stuff on a day that was so full of….deep and intense vulnerability.

A few times people approached us to join the conversation but, despite our politeness, they all seemed to give up and leave pretty quickly. It was as though they could sense that we were not to be bothered. I could see that she carried tears just beneath the surface; that what the world-at-large deemed “nothing” could bring them out. It was like her inner-child was less than a stone’s throw away and the slightest thing could bring it out of hiding. I won’t get hung up on whether I was reading her correctly or whether I was projecting (or some combination of the two). I feel comfortable that I was somewhere around the truth. I liked her. But I liked her cautiously. It was difficult to see myself reflected in her. It was difficult to imagine what it would be like if we both lost constraint at the same time: I imagined tears and shouts and hugs and lots of intensity. Lots of life. Sometimes enlivening and very frequently draining. I think that’s why I had the wolf fantasy–I invented a world where that honesty wouldn’t be scary.

Lunch ended and we went back to group. I was invited to join the group for one day to play a very specific role for someone in a group activity. It was a bit frightening to be thrown in when I knew I was a one-time guest. It was a very powerful and emotional group activity surrounding death and loss. After the group activity there was a short break. I was standing outside, focusing on my breath when suddenly I felt someone wrap their arms around me. It was the woman from lunch. I was surprised and taken aback. In fact, it was the sort of hug that I have coined a “torpedo hug”–a sort of surprise attack that does away with consent (for better and worse). I accepted the hug by hugging her back. As soon as we let go she ran off to talk to other people. The hug felt like a very pure thing and a very complicated thing at the same time. On the one hand there was a very child-like flavor to it: like the person had a strong honest impulse and went for it. The way they sort of ran away felt like…it’s hard to describe…I suppose it felt like they were trying to be careful not to feel too much–not to give too much away or take too much in. Like their sensitivity couldn’t bear it. It made me feel compassion. Even things that feel good to me have to be given up quickly because almost anything can make me feel too intensely–even a simple goodbye on the phone.

Soon after returning to group she accepted the invitation to leave early. She looked tired and overwhelmed. I could see how she was like an exposed nerve doing all of this really intense stuff all day–throwing herself bravely into all of the intensity while navigating her own inner intensity. It seemed to all get to be too much and she took care of herself. But it was not her leaving that left a huge impression (one other person left as well). It was the way she almost ran away. The intensity I could feel beneath the surface was right there on the surface. I thought of how many times in life I have run away even in contexts where running away is considered rude. Those times when it felt like everything was bearing down on me and running was about survival.

I’m glad I met her. It’s interesting to note that there is neither a desire to encounter her again nor a desire to avoid her. I feel a quiet respect and appreciation. A calm and contained love. Maybe even, I fear my reader will view me as narcissistic, self-love.

There are times when I want to run away from this blog. I’m torn between how uncomfortably naked I feel and how badly I need to have these conversations with myself. It’s kind of confusing because I see them primarily as conversations with myself but to be witnessed makes me feel less…bonkers.

Sometimes I judge myself–I wonder if it’s healthy to share so much or if I’m being self-indulgent. Then I tell myself to remember the context of my life: for much of it I have hidden. My screams have been silent as well as much of my love. So I’m telling myself that there is a wisdom in all of this. A need to keep “coming out”. And maybe someday that need will change and I will want to go back in a bit. Maybe on that day I will delete it all. And that’s okay too I suppose.

I lie belly down on the dirty rug of my office. The light that peaks through the swaying lace curtains moves and glimmers.

Melancholy—sadness’ gentler sibling—embraces me. I sway with the curtains as though we shared the same slow rhythmic heartbeat. I feel at one with every soulful movement in the universe and yet so alone.

These tears…I turn them into whispers and send them out of the window and into the breeze. I pause in anticipation. Nothing. They go unheard amid the clatter and clang of the street.

But melancholy hears—it always listens to my tears—and holds me tighter.

I have a new friend. In a way it seems silly to announce this given how we have spent time together for a few months. But last night was the first time I could acknowledge the friendship without my strategic ambivalence.

I was leaving an event that was positive but emotionally exhausting. In that way it was similar to how I feel when I leave work every night. My body and mind were in agreement: we want rest and solitude.

Then a text appeared before I began my drive home: “Hello friend–do you have dinner plans tonight?”. I was caught off guard. Not by her invitation but at the sweetness I felt at the invitation. I missed her when she was away but I dealt with it by disowning it and by inventing reasons for why our friendship could never really work out.

“I’m two blocks away from you”, I respond. “Want me to pick you up?”

“Well look at that. It was meant to be” she says.

“I have to warn you–I’m tired and smelly.”

“Well forget it, then. Let’s meet sometime in July when you’ve cleaned up a bit.”

I laugh. I realize that one of my excuses for not letting her in is that we’re too intense when we’re together–that we’re too serious. What a load of bullshit. It’s true that we carry similar traumas; that we both collapse into solitary depressions; and that we often “go deep” in our conversations. But I realize: she’s witty and funny and has that charming way of taking digs at me in order to show me that she cares about me–that I’m more family to her than stranger.

I pick her up. We have an awkward sideways car hug. She asks apologetically if we can get burritos again. I smile and welcome her home. I tell her that she never needs to apologize to me about burritos.

“Well that’s good then. It’ll just leave the other things on the list.”

“Yea, like your accent that leaves me wondering if I should hire a translator for our hangouts. Jesus–English isn’t even my first language.”

Laughing, “Fuck off. All I’ve eaten the past few weeks away is meat and bread and gravy. I need a fucking burrito.”

“I’m on it.”

We get to the restaurant and I see that she even manages to make generic interactions with strangers rather funny. During our order she expresses disappointment to the cashier that her favorite salsa isn’t a part of the dish she wants to order. The cashier says, “Oh, you like that salsa?”

I look over at my friend and she responds: “I love that salsa, yeah. It breaks my heart to have to choose.” I realize that she’s not being manipulative. For whatever reason she can’t imagine that she’s only a request away from her bliss.

The cashier thinks about it and says “We can add that salsa to your burrito.” I realize that he too sees this as a revelation and I am amused at the silliness and purity of this whole interaction. I see that my amusement is based on witnessing two intelligent human beings arrive at an idea that wouldn’t seem to require so much thought. I relate to it by recalling how frequently I get stuck in the face of simple obstacles. In short, I enjoy the humanness of it all.

She lights up sincerely and asks, “You can?”

“Would you like it inside or outside the burrito?”

She’s in disbelief at the choice, “Inside. I’m so excited!”

The cashier smiles. I smile.

I sit down at our table while she goes to get salsas. Within a minute she covers the table with about 8 different ones. “There aren’t any salsas in Ireland. I can’t wait.”

We enjoy our food immensely. We talk about our personal demons and the challenges we faced over the holiday season: family, loneliness, trauma. We interject humor and display our ability to make light of ourselves and one another without ever losing our sensitivity. I notice that even in this enjoyable and meaningful interaction I occasionally look for reasons to block the intimacy. (“Is she ever going to ask about you?” “Maybe she’s full of herself.” “Oh no, what I fall for her? It’ll just be more trouble in my life than I’m willing to deal with.”) But at every turn I’m able to ground myself and stay present. Or at least more present than I have ever been with her.

We finally have the conversation about us. The potentially difficult kind where you begin to relate all of the stuff you share about yourself and your past relationships to the “us” part of things. I tell her about my struggles with regulating intense feelings (good and bad). She tells me that our first date was a turning point for her. She says she cried when she got home that night. “It made me realize that my heart was hung up on an emotionally distant, confusing and unavailable man. It hurt that I couldn’t feel something romantic for a kind and sensitive soul. It was like I couldn’t deny that something was wrong.” I explain to her that it’s okay. That I have sensed all along there wasn’t a mutual attraction. She tells me that it’s true but that she can’t predict the future–that she doesn’t know if one day she’ll wake up and feel something like that for me. I explain to her that I need to proceed as if it’s more cut and dry in order to increase the likelihood that I remain authentic with her. I tell her that if I’m going to be her friend and minimize my tendency to strategize that I need to take it in as a “no”. She understands and tells me that she would never expect me to wait for anything. She tells me about how she freezes up when anyone other than a partner touches her and that she appreciates the way I have never pressured her to be “snuggly”. She says she is sad about how this limits her life–how it makes touch an all-or-nothing proposition. I express understanding and we talk about how we could come up with hand signals as ways of expressing physical affection.

We confess that we both strategize with one another. That we protect ourselves from acknowledging what we mean or might come to mean to one another. “Love hurts a lot for me sometimes.” I smile. I know. I already sensed that in her and know that it does for me as well. In that way we are kindred spirits. For better and for worse we both want so badly to be loved and accepted but we are terrified of being hurt. We both spent a good part of our childhoods yearning for attention and acceptance and we carry that into our adulthood. I tell her that I’m grateful to her for salvaging our friendship; that a month or two back when she told me how it hurt her when I went away it woke me up and made me more sensitive to her. She is surprised at my gratitude. She says she understands; that she goes away as well. We decide to pick an emoji that we can send to one another if either one of us falls into our collapsed depressions. A way of saying, “Hey, I care about you but I’m really in it right now”.

I tell her I’m exhausted. She expresses the insecurity (in a very adult and contained way) that she has tired me out. I look at her sincerely and explain that if anything she gave me the type of second wind I don’t normally feel in the evening and that my day was emotionally exhausting. She takes it in. Then we get to talking about television shows and I get a third wind without realizing it. I tell her, “Dammit–we have to stop. Now I’m awake again and I’ll have to wind down to get to sleep.”

We walk out of the restaurant and she says she has a craving for a Diet Coke. She’s about to get into my car when I point out the gas station convenience store across the way. “Let’s go get you one.” The clerk says it’s good that I’m buying the Cokes because “a gentleman should always pay for a lady.” I respond, “I’m only buying these Cokes because this lady just bought me a condominium. I’m just working off my debt.” He looks at us confusedly and we laugh our way out of the store.

I’m eager to drop her off and get home and into my PJs. I pull over in front of her house and we get caught up in a third conversation. I talk to her about my two potential moves and how they make me nervous. She expresses excitement at the idea that I could move downtown so that we can be a bit closer. More stuff is said that I can’t remember.

I get home and I’m beyond exhausted. Even so, I send her a coffin emoji and ask, “Too dark?”

“A bit.”

I send an eggplant and cherries emoji: “Too sexual?”

“We could use that as our ‘sorry, I’m, busy shagging’ emoji’

“If I have a shag in the next 30 years I’ll be sure to send it” I say.

“Don’t worry, you will.”

“That’s good to hear. I’m not sure you will though.”

“Fuck off.”

I send a dancing disco man emoji: “Too ironic?”

We laugh and acknowledge we both need more time. I realize how this works on different levels. Yes, we need more time to find the right emoji. And we also need time to come down from a meaningful and fun evening together.

One of the things you have to be careful about when you have my sort of trauma is to not get carried away by feelings. I feel everything intensely–good and bad. (I’m choosing right now to stay away from diagnostic terms. Not because I’m ashamed but because it is one of those things that I want to simultaneously own and hold loosely. To use the explanatory/normalizing part of it to empower me while also rejecting it as the only way to frame or articulate my struggles.) I know that right now my tendency is to idealize her slightly. Tomorrow it might be to devalue her a bit. I also know that both of these extremes are just expressions of my defended self.

I suppose what I’m saying is that I want to sum up where I am in a way that is grounded. I know that I care about this person; that I respect and appreciate her. I know that we have the power to move one another (which means we can hurt one another). I know that our strategies for dealing with potential hurt are similar, that we both fear abandonment and that, rather than cling, we shut down. And the thing I have to be most mindful of is my tendency to yearn for the unavailable. I’m not “enlightened” enough to avoid this. I’m not being negative, just honest. It’s still in my wiring. So I’ll have to depend on my wisdom, experience and a plan to ensure that I deal with it better than I have in the past.

Step one, careful not to fantasize. So far so good on that one. I’ve never had elaborate fantasies about her. If I begin to fantasize I will not shame myself, I will simply notice and ideally try to ground myself. If that fails, then healthy distractions are acceptable.

Step two, keep in mind that I don’t need her romantic love to validate my worth. I want to appreciate her while also remembering that I’m a singularly special person.

Step three, remember that I don’t actually enjoy others when I idealize them. That I remain lonely when doing so. Dissatisfied. Unsatiated. It takes me far away from myself and from the real appreciation I have for the other.

Step four, I have to check in with myself. I’ll do that now…. Slight longing in my heart. It has that tingly longing feeling. What am I really longing for? Me. Why does it direct itself at her? Because it’s easier. Because it’s familiar. Because it distracts me from all of the yummy and terrifying life force I carry within. What do I do now? I will go for a treadmill run because running is the exercise that best allows me to release pent up misdirected energy. I will forgive myself for not lifting weights this weekend (yup, my self-criticism extends to the most trivial things at times). Funny as it might sound, my soul has been directing me to run more recently. There’s probably some wisdom in that.

I’m tired of writing. It’s time to get moving.

Gratitude for yesterday and last night. Today is a different day. I have to count on myself today.

Staggeringly beautiful interaction I witnessed while walking to work today…

A very young girl says forlornly and with heartbreaking disappointment: “Daddy, I bet the Lion King isn’t even real.”

The dad responds while loading up his car: “Yeah, sweetie—I don’t know if he’s real either. But I like to believe he is. How about you?”

The girl instantly perks up and says, “yeaaaaaaaaaaaah”.

My vacation has come to an end. I return to work today. Almost immediately upon opening my eyes this morning I berated myself: you should have had more fun; you should have done more of X, Y, and Z. I even berated myself for this blog, comparing myself to those who spill out their drama on social media. Instead of indulging this I decided to go for a walk.

On my walk I began a calmer internal dialogue with myself.

I appreciate what I have written this past week. It has been about saying aloud the things that are often too scary to say to myself. Plainly. Clearly. Without poetry or philosophy. It was a sort of dialogue with myself. A good deal of my life has been spent hiding in the dark corner of a closet–sometimes hoping to be found; sometimes hoping to shrivel away and die. Historically speaking, my defenses lead me in-and-away. More isolation is not the way for me (here I stress the difference between isolation and solitude).

In the silence of this holiday I entered a sort of madness where it felt like my very Being was at stake. In this delirium I needed to create my own companion. My struggle to love myself made that complicated so I turned to writing. I wrote to survive and to do so I needed to hear myself speak aloud. It was like stepping onto a stage in front of a tiny audience, closing my eyes and sharing the things I believe are the most shameful, ugly and scary about myself. I talked about the overwhelming maelstrom that I feel inside myself; the buffer I put between this maelstrom and the world; the inner conflict I carry between mind and body; and the deep well of loneliness this creates.

There was something relieving about coming out but it wasn’t about catharsis. And while it was kind of my friends and therapist to respond positively, it wasn’t about that either. I realize that from my madness and suffering sprang something important: an attempt to find humanness in all of the things that I think make me less than human; an attempt to appreciate that contained within my storm are all of the elements: earth, air, fire (so much fire) and water. I have a sense that if I can learn to embrace what I fear most about myself that I will feel….less alone.

My vacation may have been unconventional but it was not a waste of time. I needed the madness and suffering to get me to this point. And I imagine that there will be more suffering along the way. But my journey isn’t about avoiding suffering; it’s about finding my self-worth regardless of what comes my way.

A paraphrased/edited/shortened version of my therapy session.

Me: I read your email. Thank you for sending it.

D: About value? What did you think?

Me: I really liked it but I was left with the question: how do I get it to go from my head to my heart and my body?

D: Yes, that is the question. Any thoughts?

Me: Not really. I mean, I have some tiny ideas: do kind things for myself; act as if I already believe I have value.

D: [smiles and nods]

At this point I share with D what I wrote here a few days back about the QBPD. The version I share with him is even more personal and is accompanied by my tears. I tell him that the slightest things can make me panic. That his looking at his watch could, in theory, make me panic. I tell him that there is a constant maelstrom of rage and love and sadness and that it all gets rolled up into an overwhelming ball that devours me and exhausts me. I challenge him (though kindly) by telling him though it was helpful when he pointed out to me how much I strategize; that I don’t think he understood how a big part of the strategizing is about love and not just self-preservation. I tell him that it’s nuanced and complicated. I explain that, therefore, I lot of what I restrain is important to restrain but that I pay the price by also restraining the good parts of me: the open, loving and creative parts.

D: [looks at me lovingly and teary-eyed] Can you see what I’m feeling right now?

M: I don’t know. Moved?

D: Yes. Look at the tears in my eyes. I feel very close to you right now. You’re right, it is all about love–even the self-preservation part. There is a lot of noise in there and a lot of love. I’m touched by your courage in sharing that.

M: [teary eyed and silent]

D: Everyday can be a lot for you. The idea of openness is complicated. You’re afraid that the rage and pain will spill out but then the good things get trapped.

M: [nod]

D: How do you feel right now in your body?

M: My heart feels calm for the first time in a while. My body is relaxed. My chest isn’t tight anymore.

D: Why do you think that is?

M: You responded lovingly to the parts of me I believe are the most scary. I summed up in a few paragraphs what it feels like for me to be alive and you showed love instead of revulsion.

D: Yes, but what did you do?

M: I don’t know. I shared. I was honest.

D: [smiles]

I explain to D. that my sense of my self is confusing to me. I tell him how friends and clients over time have given me the feedback that I have helped them to open up, expand, be more honest and intimate in their lives but that it is hard for me to let it in; to reconcile that version of me that they are talking about with my view of myself as a chaotic cluster of overwhelmed madness and pain.

D: [sweetly and calmly] I can see why people say this to you. You are quite a package with your sensitivity and sharp mind. I realize here today that you are even a good mirror for me. But you’re not so good of a mirror for yourself.

M: [nod in agreement]

I tell D. that about how exhausting it is to restrain all the thoughts and feelings and that I don’t like I hold back a lot of my love and warmth. I tell him that when I’m depressed and triggered it feels terrifying to tell my loved ones that I love them and that I miss them. I explain that this is not how I want to be. That I want to magnanimously express my love without expecting anything back; without feeling hurt if it’s brushed aside or ill-timed.

D: And what do you imagine it would feel like if you could share this love without fear?

M: Like I was alive. Like I was really living. My heart would feel full, the tightness in my chest would disappear and I would be more spontaneous. [I begin to cry].

D: [look at me silently and with kind eyes]

We schedule our next session and I thank him for today. He thanks me back. As I get into my car my mind gets busy, thinking about laundry, returning to work tomorrow, etc. I start to lose my calm and tell myself that maybe I can only be calm in his presence. I think immediately about the sorts of things he would say in response: “The calmness you feel is yours, not mine”. Or he would smile and say, “What a good starting point that you can at least feel your worth with others–we have a lot of good things to work with there”; etc. I feel confident that the conversation I have in my head is pretty close to accurate and I regain some of my calm.


My phone rings a little later. It’s N. She wants to spend time together and get a coffee. We firm up the plans right away and I tell myself that I’ll get around to my chores some other time. During our hangout I tell N how I feel about her. I tell her that my life is better with her in it and that I love her very much. She responds lovingly and I try to take in her response while at the same time reminding myself that what I said was worth saying regardless of her response.

We shoot the shit about alternate realities and multiple-dimensions. We consider the idea that we are in relationship to one another across different realities; that we might be siblings in one; lovers in another; enemies in yet another. One way or another, I conclude, there is probably something that draws us together in all of them. We sip our coconut waters. We talk about other things. I’m not sure if we’re getting anywhere deep or if we’re just talking shit. It doesn’t matter. The content is unimportant. What’s important is how simple it is: we’re together and we’re sharing and there is love in the room.

My last day of vacation is my best one.